Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Getting It Wrong/Getting It Right

Before we get into what's wrong, lemme just say that that's one of the most rare and truthful statements you'll ever hear uttered in any photographic art forum. So... who am I to call out these photographic greats on what I perceive to be major lapses in their artistic judgement? The same guy who has justly praised and admired them on many another occasion- does that make me right when it comes to the former? No. But at least, it shows I ain't carrying a grudge (sorry, Cindy).

Paul Graham- Films

Like anyone else, artists, and photographers sometimes get it wrong, really wrong- and to be fair, it comes with the territory. The quote above comes from a piece that centered in part on Paul Graham and the wave of photographic experimentation he's ridden the latter part of his career. I've commented previously on what I thought of his experimentation: the overexposed prints, the shots before and after what may or may not have been "the decisive moment," the entire book on... close ups of grain! And it all just strikes me as something every photographer contemplates, experiences and yes, comes to terms with in the field or in the darkroom, as they become knowledgeable with the art, the process, the craft. We study and learn how over and under exposure affect not only the finished print, but our emotional empathy as well; how timing is so crucial and critical to composition and meaning; yes, we've even considered the effect of grain. Does that mean we can't play with it further, of course not- but then, by all means show us something... new! Eamonn Doyle showed us a gorgeous "new" take on street photography utilizing the most basic of visual elements (a different viewpoint, literally)- not so unlike what some guy called Graham did when he first used color to document the social landscape.

Bruce Davidson- E.100st.

Another guy that "recently" came to mind is none other than one Garry Winogrand. My ears certainly perked up on that video as he took none other than Bruce Davidson to task for undertaking- "a personal misunderstanding" of Diane Arbus. He was particularly referring to E100st., the seminal photographic work which he also insinuated he had no business photographing since the subjects were of a different social, economic and cultural background. The thought of Davidson doing a bad copy, or some kind of wayward Arbus homage is truly beyond ludicrous. All due respect (love the guy), but... one really has to wonder what far flung region of his anus ol' Garry conjured that Arbus analogy from. His second criticism is one that definitely merits discussion- particularly in a day and age when we have photographers running "workshops" during major catastrophes. Except, of course, that Davidson is amongst the least exploitative photographers one can possibly name. His respect for his subject matter is always forefront- or as one photographer of color said a few decades back on this very topic, "Damn, argue what you want- I just wish I could have done as good a job as he did!"

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Glass Key In A Modern Landscape

Recently dropped by Glass Key Photo here on the Lower Haight in San Francisco and was both happy and relieved to see that they very much appear to be thriving. This is a small "mom and pop" type affair (ie- not your usual corporate, conglomerate retail photo enterprise) that consists of a small but well stocked, second hand, film camera store complete with various format bodies and lenses in good cond and at very reasonable prices, along with paper, chemicals, film and other accessories... in addition to housing a rather nice gallery space.

Consummate gear hound that I am (needed a body cap), I came upon a small crowd ogling, handling and yes, purchasing a variety of bodies, lenses, etc- and these were majority twenty somethings. Make all the hipster remarks you want, but if these are the people to keep film alive well into the coming decades- more power to them, cuz us geezers only have so many years left. Anyway, it was nice to see things coming along- not to mention catch the exhibit by Marissa Rocke.

Raccoon, Washington Township, Pennsylvania by Marissa Rocke from Modern Landscape

Modern Landscape offers an unsentimental though touching view of various road kill portraits taken on Ms. Rocke's travels. While some appear blissfully asleep, others are obviously in various degrees of decay and disarray- but curiously manage to retain some semblance of beauty, grace and dignity. And having a quality show to look at definitely makes for a complete experience!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Fantasy, Reality & A Few Bits In Between...

 A little levity for the masses...

Yes, things have been pretty quiet 'round these parts; ya know what they say- no news is good news. I was recently saddened to hear the ongoings at B&H, I had done business with them for decades and it was heartening to see a multi hued, multi ethnic sea of faces whenever I visited. Sadly, it does not appear all is at it seems... Cheap prices, come at a price and it's always interesting to hear how many people just don't give a rat's ass as long as they get a few bucks off their L lenses (and don't have to work in their far from public view warehouses). Not gonna rehash everything I said there, but the issues raised accurately encapsulate modern economics, prejudice and society as a whole.

Elsewhere, elephants continue to be slaughtered- forget the solitary big game assholes, I'm talking the wholesale slaughter for the continuing Asian market in ivory. And forget the glaciers, the tundra is now melting as we continue to mindlessly plunge this earth headfirst into the abyss, blissfully ignoring we seal our own fate as we do so...

Whatever photographs do survive into the next century will serve as bleak testament to a memory of how people happily carried on as the signs of the planet's demise danced all about them. They will view them with curiosity, longing, and utterly justifiable rage.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Barefoot, Tech Savvy and Fancy Free

Photo: © S. Banos

Like others, I too am intrigued by extremes, extremes of: technology, beauty, power, money, intelligence... The latter has always particularly fascinated me since so many people can be so smart about some things, and so terribly, terribly daft about others. I'm not the brightest bulb around, but I can shed a fair share of light on some of life's concerns large and small- on others, I'm good for 2 watts, literally. Most people are like that, some measure of balancing act to one extent or another. Some have not only aspired to, but have even become President using only those 2 watts!

Yes, W proved you don't have to be a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon to be President. But this guy tops that, this guy is beyond that, this guy I cannot fathom or make sense of to any degree, in any fashion. Just what dear lord, does one possibly make of a goddamn 100% legit and actual... Brain Surgeon- a brain surgeon who repeatedly comes up with the dumbest, most moronic, most incredibly stupid comments imaginable!? I've never witnessed anything like this my entire life. Ben Carson, as a doctor, has the power to access, influence and control the most intricate biology on earth governing human thought and... intelligence. And yet, as a human, he cannot rise beyond a simple buffoon.